3 years past, Joplin strong shines on

May 22, 2014
By

Anniversaries should be joyous celebrations of weddings, births, graduations, personal achievements.  They are not supposed to be catalysts invoking the worst of the worst in a human life.  Yet “supposed to be” or not, the latter exists and it is today that marks 3 years since that very worst literally ripped us open to our core.

 The science says it began ½ mile SW of the intersection of JJ Highway and W 32nd street and ended 4.8 miles NNE of Granby, Missouri, it was ¾ to 1 mile wide, traveled for over 22 miles, and on the enhanced Fujita scale ranked as an EF-5 with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour.

The math says that at 5:34 pm this afternoon, 1096 days, 26304 hours, 1,578,240 minutes, 94,694,400 seconds will have passed since the sky went dark and hell came to Joplin.

The heart says the ache, the loss, the pain will never go away, will never be explained.

The “official” toll is 158 direct and 4 indirect deaths, over 1,100 injured and just shy of $3 billion in dollar damage.

But it is the “unofficial” toll that is the most costly.  It cannot be tallied, it cannot be categorized. 

Families that will never again be whole.  Homes never again to hold a Sunday dinner or hear the rip of wrapping paper and a child’s laughter on Christmas morn.  Co-workers never again sharing a lunch of laughing at a joke.  The fear and anxiety that forms now every time clouds begin to darken a spring sky.  The nightmares, the memories that will forever haunt.

None of us, whether in or out of the tornado’s path escaped unscathed.

By brick and mortar standards, much progress has been made.  Rangeline is again a thoroughfare of commerce, where woods once stood a most modern of medical centers rises into the sky, 7 homes built in 7 days stand testament on Connor Street, over 80 Habitat homes have gone up, new schools have opened and Joplin High is on track for August this year.

Master developer stagnation aside, the accomplishments around the remainder of town are the epitome of the American “can do” spirit.  With millions of volunteer hours logged and over a billion in rebuild and new construction we continue to be a symbol of “how to”.

On May 23rd, 2011 I penned a column that I hoped at the time would give a sliver of hope during that most hopeless time.  The words as true today as they were then:

It took less than half an hour for a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May to be transformed into a burning, living hell.

The shards of shattered glass, two ton vehicles tossed like matchbox toys, trees stripped bare, buildings instantly turned into ruins, all became testaments to the fact that no matter how far advanced man’s technology, it is all miniscule in the path of a rampaging Mother Nature.

– See more at: http://caldwellscorner.com/blog/?p=1387#sthash.dunScQ58.dpuf

“It took less than half an hour for a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May to be transformed into a burning, living hell.

The shards of shattered glass, two ton vehicles tossed like matchbox toys, trees stripped bare, buildings instantly turned into ruins, all became testaments to the fact that no matter how far advanced man’s technology, it is all miniscule in the path of a rampaging Mother Nature.

While it is already in the history books as the deadliest tornado in Missouri history, we feel (and we know) that it will also be written in those history books as our finest hour.

An hour when we, along with our surrounding area neighbors, did not falter, did not hesitate. An hour that while destruction was still being wreaked on Rangeline, survivors were already assisting victims on Maiden Lane. An hour that lasted long past the setting sun and well into its rising the morning next. An hour that saw a small, mid-western community show the world the very best of its best: its people……

.. We wish we could say, fear not, we’ve overcome worse. We can’t. For there has been no worse. But neither should we fear we shall not overcome. We will. For that there is no doubt.

And while the answers will be few and the questions many for the coming days, weeks and months there is one thing that is certain:

Come this next Sunday evening, the satellite trucks will be gone, the anchors will have flown back to their chairs on the coast, and the nation’s attention will have shifted on to the next catastrophe of the moment.  Come this next Sunday evening, we will still be here.

We, you, me, us, they, them, I…..all the words that make ‘us’, ‘us’ and Joplin the community she is.

We will be doing for our family, our friends, and our neighbors what we have always done: taking care of each other from the strength found deep within ourselves.”

We had to dig deeper than we ever thought possible, but we found strength stronger than we ever imagined.

There is not one among us that would not go back and wipe it away if we could, but we can’t.  We can however honor those lost by never giving up and forever moving forward.

And if the past 3 years has shown us anything, it’s that with the grace of God, humanity’s helping hand, and a community spirit second to none, we do “moving forward” pretty darned well.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column appears in the May 22, 2011 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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One Response to 3 years past, Joplin strong shines on

  1. Steve Roark on May 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Well said!

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